Deadly storm serves as reminder

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 19, 2011

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — After a storm left two people dead in Davidson County Wednesday, officials in Rowan County are looking at how they convey timely warnings to the public.
Frank Thomason, director of emergency management services, said Rowan County was “pretty lucky” after unconfirmed reports have trickled in of the tornado possibly touching down in the northern portion of the county near High Rock Lake.
“The meteorologists were seeing confirmed rotation in that storm. It just wasn’t on the ground,” Thomason said. “The only difference was it never touched down in Rowan County.”
Davidson County wasn’t so lucky. Two people were killed during the storm. The Dispatch of Lexington identified the victims as, Janice Crotts Shaw, 50, and her 3-year-old granddaughter, Azlyn Shaw. They died in their house on Meadow Run Lane south of Lexington.
In Rowan, Thomason said county officials worked quickly to try to get information about the tornado warning out to county residents after the National Weather Service sent out an alert.
“By us getting that information from the weather service in a timely manner, it allowed us to immediately turn around and issue that information through all of our outlets,” Thomason said.
The county provides several methods for pushing information out immediately, including social media, an emergency e-mail list and the website.
Thomason said the website provides information for homeowners, business owners and others about ways to prepare for severe weather.
“It’s a public preparedness web page that we’ve developed,” he said. “We share all different types of tips that you can be prepared for any disaster or serious situation.”
Thomason said emergency management officials have been working with local fire departments to integrate tornado sirens with traditional fire sirens.
Fire sirens seesaw back and forth between high and low wails, Thomason said. Tornado sirens blare a high-pitched, steady wail for three full minutes.
“In conjunction with a good number of the fire stations in the county, we have established tornado sirens,” Thomason said. “They’re activated by our 911 center, when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning.”
Thomason said 22 of the county’s 41 fire stations double as tornado sirens.
“While some stations do not have a siren, we are working with the individual departments that do, to expand the capability to other station locations that are not currently part of the system,” he said.